Kurt Allen – Whiskey, Women & Trouble
10 songs – 45 minutes
Whiskey, Women & Trouble is the sophomore release from Kansas City blues-rocker, Kurt Allen. As one might expect from an album with a title like this and whose cover photo depicts Allen standing in front of a well-stocked bar, with a young lady on each arm and a sticker-festooned Gibson 335 in his hand, there is more than a hint of the 1970s on this release.
There is, for example, the suggestion of early Deep Purple in the funky low-down single note riff of opening track, “Graveyard Blues”, which highlights Allen’s gravelly vocals and the muscular rhythm section of Lester Estelle Jr. on drums and Craig Kew on bass. Allen’s slide guitar solo fits the song nicely. The follow-up, “Watch Yo Step”, opens with a similarly rocky riff but cleverly and subtly morphs into a swinging stop-time shuffle that benefits from the tight horns of Beaux Lux on saxophone, Pete Carroll on trumpet and Trevor Turla on trombone (Lux also provides excellent piano throughout the album). The clever guitar riff and Estelle’s busy jungle drums set the track apart and this is where the 1970s influence is most evident. Bands in that decade were happy to display all their inspirations and influences, and so is Allen. Whiskey, Woman & Trouble is not simple yet lumpen blues-rock. It’s an enjoyable mash-up of blues, rock, funk and soul and, while Allen’s voice may lean more towards rock at times, the piano and saxophone of Lux keeps pulling the music back towards blues and soul.
“How Long” is a slow blues with Allen’s guitar dripping with emotion, while the title track is a swinging jump blues with a great horn arrangement, often echoed directly by the guitar lines. “Funkalicious” is as funky as its name, opening with Kew’s monstrous bass line and featuring a spoken voice celebration of Allen’s love of soul food. Lux’s piano playing shines in the soul ballad “Count On Me.” The upbeat blues-rock “Roadrunner” contains more excellent saxophone, while the edgy riff of “Cry Mercy” is both distinctive and effective, sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd after a long stay in Louisiana.
“Voodoo Queen” benefits from more soaring saxophone and one of Allen’s more impressive vocal performances, while the closing “Sweet T” is a full-bore flat out rock’n’roll workout, like Chuck Berry on steroids.
Allen is not one of those guitar players who tries to pack in a million notes into every bar, preferring instead to rely on the thick, warm heavily over driven tones of his Gibson. His ability to switch seamlessly between standard guitar and slide on tracks like “Watch Yo Step” is also enjoyable.
All 10 tracks are originals and provide an excellent introduction to Kurt Allen.